Larry Clark is the director that gave us Kids, the movie that raised a lot of eyebrows for its frank depiction of youngsters indulging and experimenting with sex. You can expect more of the same with this movie.
Recommend this product?
That our youngsters are a troubled lot, having sex and experimenting with drugs and alternative lifestyles - this isn't really anything new. I've always thought it was so since time eternal, though perhaps in gentler times we chose not to believe it so. Certainly in historical times we know of marriages as young as 10, so why are we so surprised and shocked now? I for one am just rather wistful that our kids seem to be losing their innocence and childhood too soon.
Back to Ken Park. It centres on the lives of four teens: Tate, Peaches, Claude and Shawn. The movie's namesake, Ken Park, is a minor character that the teens know of. He starts the movie off by blowing out his brains in the middle of skating park. The movie then shifts to the other four.
Tate: Tate is perhaps the weirdest of the four. He stays with his grandparents, whom he hates. He is harsh towards them, and is also cruel towards his three-legged dog. He indulges in auto-asphyxiation for sexual gratification in a very graphic scene (those who have seen Something About Mary may draw some comparison, except the "pay-off" isn't hanging from the ear this time). Tate behaves strangely, and tops off everything by killing his grandparents in their sleep.
Peaches: Peaches is a lovely girl of Hawaiian descent. Her mother (whom she resembles), had died early, leaving her religious father devastated. He is very strict with her, but Peaches isn't the sweet innocent he things she is. One day, while he visits her mother's grave, she invites her boyfriend over and they indulge in bondage sex. While the boy is tied to the bedposts with Peaches straddling him, the father returns unexpected and catches them in the act. He beats the boy up and reduces Peaches to a sobbing wreck. They end up having a surreal mock wedding, with Peaches wearing her mother's wedding gown.
Claude: Claude is a skater-boy. His dad is a burly bloke who likes to work out with weights. His mum is heavily pregnant. Claude's dad fears that Claude is turning into a sissy and harasses the lad, stomping and breaking his beloved skateboard. Yet after a night out on the town, he drunkenly creeps into Claude's bed and performs fellatio on the sleeping boy. Claude wakes up and kicks him out.
Shawn: Shawn is dating a girl his own age. What she doesn't know is that he is also seeing her mother, Rhonda, an aging ex-cheerleader. He plays truant and spends time with Rhonda, having sex with her. When he later spends time with his girlfriend and her family, they act as if everything's normal, and no one is any wiser.
Ken Park: The most undeveloped of all the characters, we are only allowed a small glimpse into his life. We find out that he had gotten his girlfriend pregnant. It is through the stories of the others that we surmise the kind of moral morass and numbing family problems that may have led to his suicide.
To this end I thought it didn't quite work. I'm not quite sure what the director is driving at. Ken's problem is pretty textbook - it has been used as a plot device in countless movies. The other kids' problems are their own, so have nothing to do with Ken, or with each other. Is the director trying to say to viewers: Hey, look, there's no reason for anyone in Ken's situation to kill themselves, because look, others are in even more complicated situations? I am disturbed by the stories of these kids, but apart from "Ordinary teens have extraordinary problems and also have sex lives" I search for a larger message.
Towards the end of the movie, Claude, Peaches and Shawn are shown having a threesome. The sex is very graphic. I'm just wondering if it is really necessary to be so. It smells of a gimick to get people talking, and takes away from an already murky storyline.